Posted on

January is GO month: Save 30% on a Purse Perfector

GO MONTHThe National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) proclaims January as “GO” month each year. That’s “get organized” for you and me. Sometimes the idea of getting organized can become so overwhelming that we take the high road and do nothing.  

This year, we’d like to help you get started by tackling something we believe you can simply and easily organize. It’s utterly and completely doable: your handbag. End January on a great note by not only clearing the clutter out your most used accessory, but by doing it with our help. Take 30% off our list price on both the medium and large Purse Perfectors. In addition, we’ve marked our outlet items down even more to 40% off list prices! Use code ORGANIZE2014 at checkout. If you need help getting started on how to organize your handbag, we have some posts on here that will help you: http://bit.ly/KIoA5f or http://bit.ly/1jBeTBy.

This offer runs from January 24 through January 31.

Cheers,

Lyn

Posted on

My Kingdom for a Hanger!

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Wendy Taddeucci

I would like to share some simple tips to help you clear your closet of what you don’t want, for what you do want!

  1. Take a look at your closet with fresh eyes. What is working? What is not working? What do you like? What do you hate? What do you want your closet to look like once it is organized?

If something is working, such as the way you have your shoes stored, then don’t waste time changing it. However, if something is not working – maybe your jewelry has formed into a massive clump and you are afraid to stick your hand in the box to retrieve something – then change it.

Write down your vision for the closet. For example – what you want it to look like, what you want it to feel like and even what you want it to smell like. Don’t laugh – if your closet smells like sneakers, you probably will want to change that.

The next steps involve sorting clothing and accessories by type and by color. I find that organizing clothing by type – short sleeved shirts, slacks and by color within the type makes selecting an outfit extremely efficient. So……that’s what I will be asking you to do below. Let’s start from the bottom up.

  1. Remove all of the shoes from your closet. Sort them by color. As you are sorting, place the shoes you no longer want, that are in good condition, in a donation box. Also place the shoes that you would not be caught dead in because they have holes, stains, etc. in the trash.

Select where you will be storing your shoes. Do you need to purchase a horizontal or vertical storage system? Return your keepers to the closet keeping them sorted by color.

  1. Remove all of your purses and wallets from the closet. Use the same process as sorting the shoes.

Do you need to purchase a container for your purses or would you like to hang them in your closet with a handbag file?

Return the purses and wallets to the closet keeping them sorted by color.

  1. Remove clothing from the closet. As you do this sort like items together such as pants in one pile, skirts in another, short sleeve blouses in another, etc.

Use the same method to de-clutter as you did with the shoes and purses. Decide what you no longer love or wear and donate gently used clothing.

Return the clothing to the closet keeping them sorted.

I will share this tip with you: When you return your clothing to the closet, turn all of the hangers backwards. This way, when the season is over you will know what you have not worn because it is still hung in the closet backwards.  Donate those backward items!

  1. Bejeweled

The product that keeps my jewelry easy to access and prevent it from piling up is a hanging jewelry organizer. I have two in my closet. I can see all of my jewelry and it makes accessorizing a snap.

Using the same method you have used with the other items in your closet, you will de-clutter and sort your jewelry. Return the jewelry to a hanging organizer or a jewelry box. Keep the items sorted. For instance, you will want to organize your rings in one or two rows in the hanging jewelry organizer, your necklaces in one or two rows, etc.

  1. Don’t get tied down.

Organize your scarves the same way you have organized the rest of your items. De-clutter and sort your scarves. Then return the keepers to the closet keeping them sorted. For instance, your patterned scarves together, greens together, blues, etc.


If you have the hanging room in your closet, you may want to consider a scarf hanger.

 

Or if you have a door to your closet, you may want to consider a hanging shoe organizer for your scarves. Here you can also store your socks, hosiery, hats, etc.


With an uncluttered, organized closet you are in control…and looking good.  An organized closet makes getting dressed fun!

Since the launch of Simply Organized, LLC in October of 2005 Wendy has worked with clients to control the clutter and set up systems to save them time and money. Wendy’s goal with her clients is to have them, “know what they have, where to find it and how to efficiently use it.”

A Golden Circle Member and an active member of NAPO (National Association of Professional Organizers), Wendy is also a trained provider for NAPO in the Schools.

Wendy is also a member of the ICD (Institute for Challenging Disorganization). Wendy has earned her Level II CD Specialist Certificate as well as her Certificate of Study in Chronic Disorganization.

Wendy has been featured in the media on TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive, A & E’s Hoarders, WNDU-Channel 16 news, Lakes Magazine, Momsmichiana.com, In Granger, Northwest Indiana Times and the South Bend Tribune as well as hosting Transformational Radio on WVLP 98.3. 

Learn more about Wendy at www.puttingclutterinitsplace.com, on Twitter @OrganizerWendy, on Facebook Simply Organized.

Posted on

Keeping the Household Desk Functioning

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Janine Adams

Having a clear spot to handle your household affairs (or your business affairs, if you work from home) can help you stay organized, and make life easier.

The problem is that a lot of household desks (many of which are in the kitchen, but they could be anywhere in the home) tend to attract clutter. They become a repository for papers and other items. Clutter attracts clutter and before you know it your desk isn’t functioning well. And it’s unattractive.

Does that sound familiar? It doesn’t have to be that way. Here’s a simple step-by-step guide to clearing (and keeping clear) your household desk so that you can pay bills, do correspondence easily–or just find what you want when you want it.

Step One: Create a clear space
Start by taking everything off the desk. Then dust the desk, brush off crumbs and prepare it for use. Put back on the desk only those things you use frequently. Seldom-used items don’t merit a spot in this prime real estate.

Go through the stuff you’ve taken off the desk and dispose of as much as you can. Are there papers to be filed? File them. (Or scan them, if you have a scanner.) Are there items that belong elsewhere? (I bet there are.) Go ahead and put those in their proper place. Do you have some office supplies you’ve had forever but never use? Consider donating them. Make it easy to find what you need on your desk by storing only necessary items there.

Step Two: Deal with your mail
Mail is usually a big culprit when it comes to clutter on the household desk. Create a spot–a desktop file box is what I recommend to most of my clients–where you can store the mail that you need to deal with. Create files for the types of mail you receive most often. And make sure you interact with those files regularly. Most importantly, as soon as you bring in the mail, throw away or shred the junk mail and offers that don’t require any other action.

Step Three: Keep the desk clear with daily maintenance
If you can create the habit of clearing your desktop daily, it becomes very easy. The great thing about this is that when you only have a single day’s worth of stuff to clean up it literally takes a minute or two.

Start by processing your mail daily. That’s key. Then, before you go to bed (or another time that makes more sense to you) put everything away that’s landed on the desk. If you can link this new habit with something you’re already doing every day, it can be that much easier. For example, “After I turn on the dishwasher, I clear off the household desk.” Once this becomes as automatic as brushing your teeth at night, that unsightly, dysfunctional household desk will become a thing of the past.

Janine Adams is a Certified Professional Organizer and a Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization. A member of Rubbermaid’s Professional Organizer Squad, she’s the owner of Peace of Mind Organizing in St. Louis, Missouri and the co-creator of Declutter Happy Hour.  To read more of her organizing ideas (and personal organizing challenges), visit www.peaceofmindorganizing.com. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook as well.

Posted on

Organizing Your Daypack for Travel

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Janice Russell

Planes, trains and automobiles. No matter what mode of transportation you take on a trip, you need to have some type of daypack. It’s like a purse…but different.

Six continents, 37 countries, 34 states. You see, I’m addicted to travel! And I’ve found one universal tip: The purse I carry on a daily basis isn’t acceptable for adventure travel. Sure, some items are similar. But many items are different. Also, the configuration of a daypack differs depending on several factors. Here are some questions to ask yourself:

Who am I traveling with? Traveling with people you know gives you the ability to disperse some items between you.

What do I like and not like about my everyday pocketbook? Although your daypack will be different, how you “interact” with it will be similar. If you don’t like a big middle section in your purse, you probably won’t like it in a daypack. If you like having outside pockets to put certain items, then that will probably be helpful in your daypack.

Where am I going? Not city, state or country, but what activities will you be doing. A biking or hiking vacation is different from a cruise, which is different from a land vacation by bus.

When am I traveling? Weather is affected by the time of year and location. Average high and low temperatures, humidity and rainfall months can be found out in advance which gives you a general idea of what clothes and accessories you’ll need on a daily basis. If the average rainfall is .025 inches during your dates of travel, you probably don’t need a raincoat, umbrella and rain boots. One all-purpose rain poncho will suffice.

How am I traveling? Are you driving a car on your own schedule? Are you on a tour bus with periodic walking trips? Will you spend most of the day walking? Your daypack strategy will deviate depending on the length of time you will be away from your base of supplies. If you’ll only be gone a few hours at any one time, you don’t need as many items as you will if you’re gone all day.

Take the answers from above to help determine the configuration of your bag. Here are my criteria:

  • One or two small close-able pockets on the front for items like hand sanitizer and tissues
  • One long open pocket on the back for a small notepad
  • At least one zippered pocket inside
  • Long strap (to go across my body)
  • A large space in the middle (I use a Purse Perfector in my daypack!)

In addition, I like to have an outside pouch for a water bottle. BIG tip about water bottles: You can carry an empty one through security and fill it from a water fountain on the other side (if the water is safe) or purchase a larger bottled water and divide between any fellow travelers. I really like the Vapur water bottle because it packs flat when you don’t need it.

While some trips require immediate access to specific items, I always keep the following in my daypack:

  • Money (not all of it!) and a credit card
  • Identification
  • Painkillers like ibuprofen or aspirin
  • Bandages
  • Tissues
  • Small container of sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunglasses
  • Journal/notepad
  • Writing utensils
  • Camera/extra batteries/extra memory card

I only put my rain poncho in the daypack if there is a chance of rain. I take a very small reusable tote (that packs inside itself), if I’ll be shopping. Depending on the location, I will include a small container of bug repellent and Benadryl Extra Strength Itch Relief Stick.

Because I travel quite a bit, I have three different daypacks: a small one when I just need a few basics, a medium-sized one when I need all the items in the list above plus a few specialty items and a large one when I’ll have to carry my rain poncho or other outer layer on a regular basis. If my daypack has to double as my personal item during plane travel, then I make sure to have room for my one quart resealable bag of liquids.

Want to know more about getting ready for a trip? I can’t cover it all right now, so feel free to check out 20 Time-Tested Travel Tips co-written with my travel  buddy, Jamee Thieme or our Organize Your Travel Facebook page.

Here’s to happy, safe and organized travel!

Developer of the Flexible Structure Method™, Janice and her team at Minding Your Matters® has an impressive reputation for helping clients achieve “flow”. “Flow” as Janice calls it, is the blissful state of having an organizational process that supports your life and lifestyle. A Certified Professional Organizer in Chronic Disorganization, Janice is also a Certified Organizer Coach and the author of “Get Organized This Year!”.  Janice’s practical and caring approach to organizing is the basis of her high-content live workshops and webinars.  Janice is a Golden Circle Member of National Association of Professional Organizers and Program Mentor Coach for the Institute for Challenging Disorganization. She serves the organizational needs and challenges of both business and residential clients, as well as provides training intensives for fellow organizers nationwide. To enjoy meaningful tips and gain immediate access to all of Janice valuable resources, please visit her website at www.MindingYourMatters.com. 

Posted on 2 Comments

Professional Organizer’s Insider Guide to Organizing Your Closet

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Linda Samuels

Just like people, every closet is unique.  With that said, there are some universal concepts that can be applied to many situations. Below are some basic steps to help you shift from feeling overwhelmed by your closet clutter to becoming stress free when getting dressed in the morning.  Think about what your closet looks like now and how it is or isn’t functioning.  Try these ideas to transform your closet and reduce your getting dressed stress.

THE PROCESS

There are four main steps to organizing your closet.  They are Prepare, Edit, Organize and Enjoy.

PREPARE

Like any project, preparing emotionally and physically before you begin means that you are giving yourself the best chance for success. Consider these ideas:

  •  Clarify Your Goals – Be clear about the results you hope to accomplish. Why do you want to organize your closet?  Are you overwhelmed every time you get dressed because you have many clothes yet feel like you have “nothing to wear?” Clarifying your end goal will help keep you motivated and focused during the organizing process.
  •  Solo or Social – Can you do this project on your own or would this be easier with the help of a friend, family member or professional?  For some, introducing the social aspect to the organizing process will be the success key.  An assistant can help you remain focused, provide physical help and evaluate clothes and colors make you look fabulous.
  •  Time Constraints – Do you have the time to do this project in one sitting or do you need to break it into smaller time blocks?  To evaluate this, consider the size of your closet, your own energy level and your schedule.
  •  Organize or Install – These two ideas are not mutually exclusive.  This article is addressing how to organize a closet.  However, if you decide to gut and reconstruct your closet to maximize the space, you will still benefit from going through the process I’m describing.  If you decide to redesign your closet interior, it will be easier for a closet designer to determine your true needs after you’ve gone through the editing process.
  •  Supplies – You will be making lots of piles as you organize your closet.  To sort use either large plastic bins or 30-gallon plastic bags.  Label them “Donate”, “Resale,”  “Maybe,” “Discard”, “Dry Clean/Repair”, “Launder.”  Have paper and a pen handy.  You might want to make “To Do” notes about action items like buy new hangers or replace black pants.  In addition, if you are donating clothing, list donation items individually so that you can get a tax-deductible receipt.  Here is a link to Goodwill’s valuation guide: http://www.goodwill.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/Donation_Valuation_Guide.pdf
  •  Get Comfortable – Before you embark on the project, make sure you are well rested, you’ve minimized distractions, you have eaten, and you are wearing comfortable clothing.  Take small breaks along the way as needed.
  •  Remove Obstructions – Clear the path to the closet for easy access.  If there are items blocking the closet entry and floor (like dirty laundry, shopping bags or shoes) move them out of the closet to be handled later.  Begin editing the hanging clothes first.

EDIT

Before you organize your closet, the editing and releasing process comes first. Keep your objectives in mind.  Remember why you are doing this and what you hope to accomplish.

  •  Power of Asking – Editing is all about asking the right questions.  The objective is not to get rid of things just for the sake of getting rid of them.  The idea is to accomplish your goal.  So if you want to reduce your overwhelm and stress, letting go or at least moving out of some of your clothes is a key ingredient.
  •  Questions To Consider – Does this fit?  Does it look good on me? Do I absolutely love it?  Has it overstayed its welcome?  Does it need to be replaced? Does this item have to take up prime real estate in my closet? If I had fewer items to take care of, to choose from, to manage, would it save me time and reduce my stress?  Do I want the off-season clothes stored in a remote location (a box, another closet)?  If this piece of sentimental clothing will never be worn again, can it be stored in another location? Can I take a photograph of it and release the actual piece? Only keep items that you love, you wear currently, look fabulous in, fit well and are in good condition.
  •  Remove Empty Hangers – Before actually touching your hanging clothes, take a few minutes to remove all empty hangers.  This will immediately create breathing room. Unused hangers can be donated, discarded or recycled.
  •  Ready, Set, Go – Start from the left working to the right side of your closet or section.  Review sequentially one single hanging item at a time and begin to ask the questions. Do not move to the next item until that piece has been routed to one of the following categories:  Donate, Resale, Discard, Dry Clean/Repair, Launder, Keep (leave it hanging), or Maybe.  Try to minimize the Maybes, which you will end-up trying on.  Do the Maybes at the end, after you’ve edited a section or the entire closet.
  •  Breathe – Congratulations! You have just finished editing a section or perhaps the entire closet.  I’m visualizing that there are piles of clothes everywhere and it may seem more chaotic than when you began.  It always looks worse before it gets better.  Hang in there (no pun intended.)
  •  The Maybes – This is a good time to try on the Maybes.  Use the same editing questions to help you route them to the appropriate pile or back into the closet if they are Keepers.
  •  Non-Hanging Items – What about all the other things (belts, shoes, sweaters, handbags and items that were removed from the closet floor) that are not hanging on the poles?  It’s editing time for those items.  So, go cubby-by-cubby, shelf-by-shelf, and drawer-by-drawer.  Ask the same questions and route the items to the appropriate locations (Donate, Discard, Keep, etc.).

ORGANIZE

  • Quick Clean – Closets can get dusty.  Before moving items back into the closet, grab your vacuum so that you can give yourself a clean slate to work with.
  •  Organize by Type – Now it’s time to think about how you would like your clothes arranged.  There is no right or wrong way.  It’s a matter of figuring out what will work best for you and how your brain processes.  Some preferences might be arranging like things together such as pants with pants or skirts with skirts. Others prefer to hang outfits together or arrange by clothing purpose such as work, casual or dressy clothes. Some prefer to keep items within a group by color, while some couldn’t care less. Organize in a way that works best for you.
  •  Off vs. Current Season – Depending upon the size of your closet, the alternative space available in your home, the amount of clothes you have, the time factor, you might want to consider moving your off-season clothes to another location (a box or different closet).
  •  Hangers – This is optional, but I recommend investing in matching hangers. Your closet will look and function better. This is one of my favorite visual tricks. There are many hanger options.  The Container Store, Hanger Direct or Target are good resources. If you are going to invest in new hangers, you can switch them out on a different day, after the organizing and editing is done.
  •  Arranging – At this point, you should begin moving your clothes around into the different categories.  Make sure to hang all clothing facing the same direction.  As you hang clothes, adjust them so they lay nicely on the hangers.
  •  Non-Hanging Items – Remember the piles of accessories, shoes, bags I had you cart out from the floor, shelves and drawers?  It’s time to handle those.  You’ve already done the editing, now it’s time to think about how you’d like to access and organize them.  This part gets a bit trickier to advise because it is here that closets and personal preferences vary widely.  You have many options for storing things by using boxes, bins, shoe cubbies, shoe bags, drawer inserts and dividers. Group like items together.  Do you prefer open bins or closed boxes or drawers? Some prefer a visual cue to have things showing, while others are like closed containers. Labeling boxes and shelves can be effective for some. Make it work for you.
  •  Leftovers – What about all the bins, bags and piles of things that are not returning to my closet?  You are almost done.  It’s time to complete the organizing cycle.  Take all of the extras and route them to their designated areas. The idea is to get them out quickly.  Complete your donate list and bring items to your donation location of choice.  Make sure to get a tax receipt.  Put laundry items in the laundry or bring to dry cleaners.  Bring the discard pile out.  You get the picture.  You are not done until the piles move to where they are supposed to go.

 ENJOY

  • Some clients have expressed that after organizing their closet they feel as if “a great weight has been lifted,” or have been able to “release their past and live more in the present.”  While we are just talking about a closet, going through the organizing process can have a surprisingly uplifting effect.
  •  You have worked hard to move past the overwhelmed stage into the stress free zone.  Congratulations!  Take the time to bask in your success.  If you find yourself, bringing in assorted family and friends to “show off” the work you did, that’s normal.  Enjoy as they “ooh” and “aah” over your beautifully organized closet.  Don’t be surprised if your effort inspires them to go home and do the same.

RULES OF THUMB

  • Hang clothes facing the same direction
  • 80/20 Rule – people only wear 20% of their clothes – the other 80% is taking up precious real estate in your closet

 DO’s

  • Tune-up your closet twice a year – Spring and Fall
  • To maximize space, use double hanging areas for shorter items (i.e. shirts, short skirts, jackets)
  • Each time you bring home a new item for your closet, release something in it’s place

 DON’Ts

  • Don’t keep clothing that no longer fits, you don’t love or is beyond repair
  • Don’t attempt organizing alone if you will have more success enlisting the help of a friend, family member or professional

 

Linda Samuels, CPO-CD® is a compassionate, enthusiastic professional organizer and founder of Oh, So Organized! (1993), author of The Other Side of Organized and blogger on organizing and life balance. She has been featured in The New York Times, Woman’s Day, Bottom Line Personal, Westchester Magazine and Everyday with Rachael Ray.

Contact info:

linda@ohsoorganized.com

914-271-5673

http://www.ohsoorganized.com

http://www.theothersideoforganized.com

Twitter:  @LindaSamuels

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Oh-So-Organized

Pinterest:  http://pinterest.com/ohsoorganized/

Posted on

Simple Steps to an Organized Office

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Gabrielle Fishman

Is your office a jumble of papers, business cards, computer equipment and cables?

Like most of us, you’re probably dealing with an overflow of information, both electronic and paper. You may have stuffed the influx into drawers to get it off the surfaces. Or maybe you have piles on every horizontal surface. Whatever your style, these ideas will get your office in shape for success.

Create an inbox

This is a container that holds all your incoming paper. It’s not a storage area; it’s a holding area for everything that comes in. Do a quick sort to separate what you want to look at from what can go straight to recycling (junk mail).  You will process it later.

Process your inbox

Schedule time daily or weekly to process your inbox. Look at each item and make a decision. This should take no more than 15 minutes a week. Just for fun, time yourself and see how long it really takes. One of my favorite tools is a letter opener to speed the process of opening mail.

Get FAT

FAT stands for File, Act, Toss.

  •  File. If an item is something you want to keep, put it in your reference files. Only keep what you can’t access online. Filing is a storage system for retrieval later – will you remember where you put it when you want to retrieve it? More on filing down the page.
  • Act. If it takes two minutes or less to do something, do it now. An example is marking your calendar for an event. Use action folders for categories of actions you need to take. For instance, a “Bills to Pay” folder for bills that aren’t set up on autopay. Place tickets for future events in an “Events” folder. Add folders for actions that fit your particular situation.Place newsletters and magazines in a “Reading” folder or other container. If you haven’t read a newsletter or magazine by the time the next issue arrives, toss it.  If you’re anything like the rest of us, you might be tempted to save them for when you’ll have more time, but “more time” probably won’t occur within the next year and you won’t need a year’s worth of magazines!
  • Toss. You did this before you placed items in your inbox, do this now with anything you can recycle or quickly read.

File it to find it

The best filing system is the one that works for you. If you’re running a household, you’ll need files for each family member’s medical records, paid bills, bank statements, school records, insurance policies, receipts. Don’t know what to keep and how long to keep it?

If you’re running a business, you’ll need a more complex system, depending on your business. Freedom Filer is a self-purging file labeling system that comes complete with clear instructions. You can also create a spreadsheet index of your files, using keywords to tell you what’s where. The advantage to this method is searchability, and a variety of terms for each file. Whatever system you choose depends on your particular needs and working style.

Put it away

Store frequently used items close at hand. Keep a few pens in a cup on the desk. Use drawers for items like tape, staple remover, paper clips, stapler, correction tape, binder clips, letter opener, envelopes, and other items that you use less often. Label the containers for these items so you will always know where they go. Practice putting things away at the end of the day

Store paper, folders, large envelopes, extra pens, tape, staples and other office supplies in a cabinet or in bins on a shelf.  Label all containers.

Keep it down

If you’ve got the paper piles, try Jason Womack’s five-day experiment: Once a day for five days, commit to spending 15 minutes each day to sorting through your piles. For each piece of paper you touch, you’ll make a decision. Depending on the size of your piles, you may try one hour a week for five weeks, or one day a month for five months. Give it a shot, and let me know how it goes.

Most importantly, set aside time to work on your action items. The key to keeping on top of your action items is to review them weekly and keep them pruned.

Gabrielle Fishman, owner of GO-Gabrielle Organizes, helps busy women clear clutter and create order. Ever since her first encounter with mail merge in the 80s, Gabrielle has been fascinated with the power of technology to make people’s lives easier. Besides showing her clients how to use technology more effectively, she designs customized solutions to deal with paper piles, computer files, cluttered spaces, and active schedules.

Posted on

NAPO 2012: A Whole Lot of Organized Purses

We recently made the trek to Baltimore for the National Association of Professional Organizers‘ annual conference. As an exhibitor, we spent the majority of our time at the Purse Perfector booth, talking with organizers about how our unique purse organizers can help them and their clients be more organized.

Here’s a little photo slideshow we put together of some of our favorite NAPO 2012 encounters:

Posted on

Creating Your Family Command Center

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Ellen Delap

In our busy lives, information and paper come at us from all directions all the time! Where does all this come from? It comes in with the mail, from school or work with our children or partner, or in a purse! These items might require immediate action, might be dates and times to enter on our calendar, bills to pay, or addresses or service providers we may need later. The family communication center is a space for information and paper that needs easy access and quick retrieval.

Our first decision is where best to create the space for this work zone. Where do you see these papers? In most homes, it is the kitchen since it is the hub of your home. However, if your home office is on the first floor and in a central part of your home, this is a great space to establish this area. You decide what works best for you.

Set up your work zone with a family calendar for dates. Purchase a bulletin board and dry erase calendar to post nearby. Have family members pin invitations, baseball schedules or school events to the bulletin board. Enter each family member’s information in different dry erase colors making it easy to see upcoming activities.

For papers, begin by reviewing the current clutter. Start by deciding what to keep and what to toss. Be decisive! This ensures keeping only what you need. Continue by sorting your papers into the categories that work for you. Most people need these categories: to do, to pay, pending, and to file. Other categories include the names of your children and partner, activities, schools and organizations.

Now that you have categories, decide what organizing product might assist you best in keeping these papers in order. Look around the space, measure the area for size, and think about your personal organizing style. Do you prefer to see paper or not? If so, think of open box-like items to use for each category. If not, look for a desktop file suited to the décor of the space with hanging files to label with each category. Be sure to choose a product you love and this will help you stay organized.

Create family and personal routines for your family communication center. Hold a family meeting once a week to update your calendar. Family members take turns as scribe to add information. For the papers, designate an administrative time to work with each of the categories. This routine usually takes just one hour a week, especially if you choose a time you are high energy to get the job done. Write your administrative time in your personal calendar to commit to the time and make yourself accountable to get the job done. Remember to reward yourself for your efforts.

Creating a family communication center makes the difference in keeping information accessible and easy to locate. Find the right space, the right categories, the right products and the right time to make this work for you. You benefit having balance and peace of mind. Your family learns organizing systems and routines that will last a lifetime.

For over 10 years, Certified Professional Organizer and Family Manager Coach Ellen Delap has helped her clients make time and space for what’s important to them by organizing their homes, offices and their daily living.

Ellen, owner of Professional-Organizer.com, works one on one with her clients in their home and offices streamlining their environment, creating effective strategies for an organized lifestyle and help prioritize organization in their daily routine. She holds ADD and Chronic Disorganization certificates and specializes in working with ADD and ADHD families, adults and students. Ellen has been featured on Stretch Your Dollar on ABC13 Houston, in articles in the Houston Chronicle, a guest speaker on radio KLOVE, an assistant on Hoarders television show and is a national expert on The Clutter Diet, an online organizing website. She is a Golden Circle member of the National Association of Professional Organizers, a Level II member of the Institute for Chronic Disorganization, and past president of NAPO Houston.

Learn more about Ellen at www.professional-organizer.com, on Twitter @TexasOrganizer, on Facebook EllenDelapProfessionalOrganizer.

Posted on

Organizing Your Kitchen for Easy Meal Planning

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Jill Hively

This month’s National Nutrition Month® theme is Get Your Plate in Shape. This annual celebration is a good reminder to re-evaluate the nutrition goals you’ve set for yourself and your family.  (Don’t have nutrition goals?  Let’s get started now!)

An easy, budget-friendly way to make gradual, sustainable improvements to your family’s eating habits is to plan meals to eat at home.  The beauty of dining at home is that you have the ultimate say about the ingredients in your meals and the methods used to prepare them.  And the best part is that you don’t have to be a trained chef or dietitian to make it work.  You simply need an understanding of your family’s preferences, your goals and a space that supports those goals.

Set up a meal planning center

House all of your meal planning tools and resources in one area—it could be a drawer, a pantry shelf or a binder on the counter.  Be sure to include:

  • Recipes
  • Coupons (if you use them)
  • Previous meal plans (for inspiration)
  • An ongoing grocery list (to record an item when you’ve run out)

Designate a place to display your weekly menu

It’s easier to commit to a plan when it’s written out—and you can direct any “What’s for dinner?” questions to the board.  How great is that?  It could be on the refrigerator or maybe the back side of a cabinet door.

Stock for easy inventory

To avoid wasting money on duplicate purchases or expired foods, you want to make sure you can easily see what you already have on hand:

  •  Turn labels to face out
  • Add tiered risers and/or lazy susans to deep shelving
  • Use baskets as drawers

Keep like with like

This basic organizing principle is important in meal planning.  To get started, think of the aisles in your favorite grocery store.  You can set up similar “departments” at home—produce, crackers, frozen veggies, etc.  You can also take it one step further and designate specific shelves in your refrigerator for snacks, lunches, leftovers, etc.

Which tips could you tackle this month to move you toward your family’s nutrition and meal planning goals?

Jill Hively is a registered dietitian and meal planning consultant in Apex, North Carolina. In her workbook Jumpstart Your Family’s Meal Plan, she encourages families to head back to the dining room table one grocery list at a time. To learn more about Jill’s meal planning philosophy (and her slight obsession with food safety), visit www.OrderUpOrganizing.com You can also follow Jill on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted on

Organizing Memories 101: Lessons in Photo Organization

This post is part of our ongoing Year of GO (Get Organized) series, written by professional organizing experts who show you how to tackle clutter in one room or area of your home.

By Jody Al-Saigh, Picture Perfect Organizing

You don’t need an advanced degree in photography or design to keep your photos organized and displayed beautifully. Organizing photos is similar to many other types of organizing you would do around your home. Here are some quick lessons in organizing your memories.

Why do you want to organize your photos?

Think about all the reasons you want to organize your photos. This will help you set your goals for the task at hand.

Some reasons that people might have for organizing photos:

  • To preserve precious memories. If photos or slides are stored incorrectly they can be damaged. Photos should never be stored in a basement or attic due to moisture and temperature fluctuation.
  • To share the photos with others. What is the point of taking all the photos of your kids, or your vacation, if they stay in a stack on a shelf or never even leave the memory card from your digital camera?
  • Free up the space where the photos are currently being stored. If you do print your photos, they can pile up fast unless you deal with them regularly. Just like any clutter in your home such as paper, mail, clothing, or toys – photos can take up valuable space.

How to get started?

Gather and sort. You won’t know what you have if your photos are scattered all over your home. Collect photos from every place they are stored and get them into one spot. A good area to work should have a large flat surface such as a dining room table or a bed in a guest room.

Sorting can be done in different ways:

  • Chronological: Sort by year or month. Start with the most recent photos and work backward.
  • Theme: Group like items together and toss the duplicates. People tend to have multiple copies and then never use them.  Sort into categories such as vacations, weddings and other life cycle events, or by a family member.

Did you find some old photos in your collection? Are there prints that are damaged?

You’ll need some restoration. Services like Photo Rescuer can help. These services can scan in your photos and fix tears, perform color correction, even remove items or change a backdrop.

Do you have old slides or a large collection of photos that are going bad?

You might be better served to scan them all. Then you can enjoy them digitally. Send them to a service like Scan My Photos. If you are nervous about boxing up your heirloom photos, check for local vendors that perform photo and video services.

Is everything in your collection digital?

Digital photography is here to stay. But if all of your photos live on your camera memory card, they are not serving you well.  Take the time to set up file folders on the computer and be sure to have a double back-up system in place for your treasured family memories.

If you have digital photos, but still want prints or albums, there are many online photo sites that are easy to use. You can upload your pictures with a few clicks and even make beautiful printed books or other gifts like mugs and tote bags. Two popular sites are Kodak Gallery and Shutterfly.

Got stuff?

Sometimes the collection of memories includes more than just photos. Perhaps you have a program book or ticket stub from an event. Maybe some children’s artwork. Or a prized sports medal. These items also need to be displayed or stored. Sometimes these items can be displayed easily alongside a photo in a book or shadow box display. But if the item is large, 3-dimensional, or bulky, consider taking a photo of the item and discarding the actual piece.

Time to display

Scrapbooking is a hot trend, but it is not for everyone. And, if you do a lot of scrapbooking, you will also have to organize all of the stickers, papers, and tools as well.

If you do choose albums, always be sure to choose products that are archival and acid-free. Websites or catalogs such as Exposures and Light Impressions are two great sources for acid free and archival albums, photo-safe marking pens, tapes, glues and more. Craft stores like Michael’s and even Target have also started to carry scrapbooking products to keep up with the trend.

If you choose to store your photos in boxes, those same vendors also have plenty of decorative or functional boxes for photos. The Container Store is one choice for photo boxes in acid-free plastic or archival shoeboxes in decorative colors. Another great box for organizing and sorting is the Creative Memories Power Sort Box. Look for a box that has dividers to help you sort your photos and label them into whatever categories you choose.

Keep it up

Just like other organizing, keeping up with your photos is an ongoing task. Try to go through photos on a monthly basis. This includes downloading whatever is on your camera or sorting through prints when you get them developed. Labeling as you go will keep you from a lot of guesswork down the road. Have empty boxes or albums on-hand to continuously work on maintaining your precious memories.

Class dismissed!

Jody Al-Saigh received her B.S. in photojournalism from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Communications and spent 10 years working in print production and graphic design. In 2008, Al-Saigh became a professional organizer and started her own company, Picture Perfect Organizing. Along with her expertise in all areas of residential organizing, she specializes in helping clients organize their photos and often speaks to groups about photo organizing. Jody Al-Saigh is a member of the National Association of Professional Organizers (NAPO) and the Association of Personal Photo Organizers (APPO). She is a Certified Personal Photo Organizer.

Follow Jody on all your favorite social media sites for free, weekly organizing tips:

Facebook  http://www.facebook.com/PictPerfectOrg
Twitter https://twitter.com/pictperfectorg
Tumblr http://pictureperfectorganizing.tumblr.com/
Pinterest  http://pinterest.com/pictperfectorg
Blog http://www.pictureperfectorganizing.com